August 27, 2012 01:17 AM
By Mohammed Zaatari

KFOUR, Lebanon: Dozens of residents of the southern village of Kfour blocked access to a newly established dump in a nearby valley over the weekend, pledging to protest until a deal is struck to relocate the waste.

The new dump was opened last week in the Kfour Valley, two kilometers from the village, which is home to 2,000 people. The location was determined in a deal between the Kfour municipality and union of Shqif municipalities after the Yohmor waste dump reached full capacity.

On the streets outside the dump, at least 30 men, women and children wore masks Sunday to protest against the smell and pollution of the valley, which serves as the village’s water source. They blocked roads and turned away trucks carrying waste from surrounding municipalities.

Mariam Bakri, an elderly woman in her 70s, insisted, despite her age, on taking part in the demonstration and said the sit-in would continue until local officials stopped municipalities from dumping their waste in the valley.

“I have never witnessed such rudeness as this by people who live near us who try to dump their waste where our water source is,” Bakri said.

According to local officials who spoke to The Daily Star, the site is far enough from the town and does not pose a threat to public health. The officials argue that the demonstrators are exaggerating the problem.

But another demonstrator from Kfour, Father Youssef, said the town is also facing environmental problems caused by the dump.

“This town is experiencing environmental backwardness and a number of factors are contributing to this situation,” he told The Daily Star.

“Today we are surprised to see the establishment of this waste dump … There are some 30 municipalities that are dumping 400 tons of waste in addition to medical waste from a number of hospitals in the area,” he added.

The former mayor of Kfour, Ali Darwish, has backed the demonstrators, arguing that a dump of this size in the Kfour Valley will endanger the health of village residents.

“This demonstration is not political. It’s in the interest of public safety and we will continue to protect the people and the environment,” Darwish said.

The residents of Kfour have sent a letter to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Environment Minister Nazim Khoury and Nabatieh Governor Mahmoud Al-Moula rejecting the presence of the dump and accusing the Kfour municipality of making illegal deals with waste disposal companies.

The head of the union of municipalities of Shqif, Mohammad Jaber, argued that the dump is important for the area and that people should work together to establish a comprehensive waste treatment plan.

“There is no solution other than bringing together our efforts to treat all the waste in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, fears ran high in Sidon that the protest blocking the Kfour dump will result in municipalities sneaking their waste into Sidon’s dump. Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi has already given strict orders to the waste control office to block waste trucks coming from outside of Sidon.

Sidon previously refused to assist the municipality of Jezzine dispose of its waste but has proposed talks for a larger waste disposal plan for the region.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 27, 2012, on page 4.

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